When you run a business, randomness is the enemy.

You need predictable processes to get a grip on what’s going on and to improve things over time. It’s easy (at least in theory) to create systems for things like physical production and technology. But how do you systematize the recruiting piece? People, after all, are unpredictable. Those who give a wonderful first impression may turn out to be lazy or dishonest. Those who seem slow out of the gate can surprise with turns of brilliance or insights that set your company aflame (in a good way). Human psychology is complex and getting people to work together in a systematic fashion will always involve some element of “art,” no matter how scientific your process.

But recruiting should not be played like a game of chance. We’ve already discussed the nasty consequences of bad hiring, and you’ve probably (unfortunately) lived through frustrating experiences to that end in the past.

So how do you eliminate, or at least minimize, the element of chance?

As we explored in the previous chapter, you begin by crafting a recruitment plan to source, screen and onboard talent. But for that plan to work, you need to quantify success and failure. After all, you can only improve a system if you can measure its key elements.

Putting numbers to this nebulous work is a challenge. It isn’t immediately obvious what to do. Sure, the nature of the position itself may be obvious—you need a line cook, HR manager, dental assistant, or what have you. But just because someone has a requisite set of skills to do the work doesn’t mean you’ve found a winner. The new hire also must fit within your culture and share your values.

Benchmarking Rock Stars

It’s a cliché to call awesome recruits “rock stars” or “A Players.” But what do these terms mean, functionally? They refer to ideal, top performing employees, who meet all the role qualifications and who also are aligned with you on values and mission. Through benchmarking, you develop a set of standards and behaviors sought based on the characteristics of ideal employees. Then you use those standards and behaviors to evaluate job candidates.

Benchmarking should measure more than just the ability to do the job. You also want to assess general skills, values, personality, and the capacity to be trained. Once you’ve quantified what you need (and, just as crucially, what you don’t need), use these metrics to craft job announcements and choose where to source talent.

The 5 Traits of a Rock Star

These are:

  1. Ability
  2. Willingness
  3. Empowerment
  4. Empathy
  5. Trustworthiness

All five characteristics are mission-critical for screening out bad hires and screening in rock stars.


Ability is an assessment of a candidate’s aptitude, skills and experience required to successfully perform the core job functions.. If special skills, education, or certifications are necessary to complete the work, a rock star candidate will meet or surpass those requirements.  Keep in mind, experience and then education are usually the least important qualifiers for a Rock Star.  A true Rock Star will gain the experience – and anything else college could have taught – while working for you.

Below is an example of how we benchmarked the ability component of a Rock Star paralegal for InPrime Legal.  We intentionally placed experience and educational background last.

And challenge yourself to think of ability in terms of behaviors you might observe and not some vague list of attributes like “attention-to-detail.”  What behavior, for example, would indicate a high attention-to-detail?  A person who always notices grammar mistakes (in advertisements, on cereal boxes and in any other place) is likely highly attentive to detail


An employee can possess all the experience, education and technical competencies in the world to perform the job duties in perfect form, but still not be a Rock Star if she lacks passion for the position.  An employee’s willingness to a do a job is very different from her ability to do it.

Does the applicant really want to perform the job duties? Does she have a passion for your business or industry? Do her values align with your company values?  In short, is she a cultural fit?   Again, focus on behaviors and not vague attributes.

We previously discussed Mark Miller’s powerful formula for attracting and retaining Top Talent – TM=B³A .  As Mark expounds in his book Talent Magnet, Top Talent has different needs and wants from Typical Talent.  A Rock Star seeks a better boss, a brighter future and a bigger vision (the  of the formula).  In our opinion, this speaks to the employee’s wiliness to perform a job like a Rock Star.  So, it’s important to acknowledge your Rock Star candidates will actively seek these opportunities.  And, to separate the typical talent from the top talent, it’s also important you test for these attributes before making a final hiring decision.  In the interview, for example, you might ask:

What new skills do you want to learn?  Describe your ideal boss or supervisor?  Give me an example of how you made a difference in another person’s life?  How do you plan to make a difference in the world with this career?  A Top Talent candidate should be eager to answer these questions because the job is not just a paycheck for her; the job is an opportunity to grow and learn new skills and to make a lasting contribution in the world.  In contrast, your typical talent (the non-Rock Stars) will likely not have seriously considered these questions.

Below is an example of how we benchmarked the willingness component of a Rock Star paralegal for InPrime Legal.


Empowerment concerns your business. Even though you may find the right candidate for your position, her success depends on your capacity to train your new team member and provide her the right tools and equipment to perform the job.  This should include coaching and mentorship.  One of our clients implemented a “buddy system.”  Every new hire is assigned to a “buddy” within the company.  The buddy is responsible for acclimating the employee to the company’s culture, introducing him to the team, answering any questions that come up and generally, making him feel welcome.  For a top candidate to become a rock star employee, you must be well positioned to provide the right tools and mentorship to make a successful transition happen.

List out the training resources, tools and equipment you believe are needed to empower the new hire to be successful.  What more can you do?  How can you empower rather than impede success?

Below is an example of how we benchmarked the empowerment component of a Rock Star paralegal for InPrime Legal.


Empathy is an awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people.  Instead of feeling for someone (sympathy), you feel with someone.  Business owners often overlook this soft skill, but empathy is the key to being a Rock Star and a valued team member.

In Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek discusses the essential ingredients of a high-performance culture.  And, the most essential of essential ingredients is empathy.  According to Sinek, “when empathy is lacking, aggression, fear and other destructive feelings and actions dominate.”  And you are left with a no accountability, win-at-all-costs culture.  But empathy is not something you can just turn on and off, like a light switch.  As Sinek explains,“[e]mpathy is . . . ‘a second by second, minute by minute service that [we] owe to everyone if [we] want to call [ourselves] a leader.’”  To maintain a high performance culture, every employee must live empathy.  And once firmly anchored in the culture, the “feeling of belonging, of shared values and a deep sense of empathy, dramatically enhances trust, cooperation and problem solving.”

Empathetic behaviors to watch for include small acts of kindness, quickness to serve others and placing the well-being of others first.  And, you can test for this.  Before a final interview, we place a full glass of water directly in front of the candidate’s chair and then an empty glass in front of the interviewer’s chair.  A full carafe of water sits on the conference room table.  If the candidate instinctively offers to fill the interviewer’s water glass, then we know the candidate lives empathy.  Of course, we also acknowledge the excitement of the interview can be distracting; so, we don’t automatically disqualify someone if she fails to offer water.

Below is an example of how we benchmarked the empathy component of a Rock Star paralegal for InPrime Legal.


 Trustworthiness is a fundamental character trait that people unconsciously look for in hiring. It is also another must-have attribute of a rock star hire. According to Simon Sinek, trust is the natural result of empathy because empathy is about putting others first and the more you put others first, the more people trust you will do what you say you will do and you will not do anything against their interests.  Trust and empathy, therefore, go hand-in-hand.  And it is critical you screen for these behaviors before making a final hiring decision.

How to Benchmark for Rock Stars

Many of our clients use an Ideal Candidate Profile to translate the rock star recipe into a tangible new hire outline tailored to the needs of their business. An Ideal Candidate Profile prompts business owners to determine the job’s purpose, core job duties, the desired outcomes of the work, technical competencies, educational background and other necessary skills. Once you have gained clarity on the position by creating the profile, you can more easily and effectively build  a behavioral job description and short job posting so that you can better identify top talent when you see it.

To help you benchmark rock star hires for your business, download and check out our free Ideal Candidate Profile worksheet here. This is the exact worksheet that we use to benchmark our top talent at our firm, and if you need any help with your hiring plan, InPrime Legal is a call away. Contact us at 770-282-8967 for a no obligation consultation.